In September 2212, the artificial intelligence running the Near Earth Object Observation Program at Big Pine, announced impassively that it had discovered a new asteroid that would impact the Earth in about five years’ time. It estimated its size to be similar to that of Australia. I’ve often wondered who it told first, and how they reacted.
‘Ragnarok’ was a world killer and no mistake. So, we had to leave, no other choice, the Earth would be largely uninhabitable from the 20th of October 2217 and we had five years to prepare.
Mars would be on the other side of the Sun when the impact happened, and we started to ship stuff there. The Earth space elevator at Kisumu, in Kenya, had been in operation for about ten years and our Mars robots had just finished spinning the first cable from synchronous orbit down to Pavonis Mons, so we already had a rudimentary space elevator on Mars.
At first, the Government tried to keep Ragnarok quiet, but the story soon leaked to the press. They began building vast underground shelters to give people something to focus on, but the truth was that we had to leave. When I say ‘we’ I mean the human race, but there were far too many for all of us to get a seat on the last train to Pavonis Mons.
And then the Government announced The Mars Lottery. Everybody stood the same chance, people would be entered automatically, although there were restrictions. Nobody over the age of fifty or under the age of fifteen was eligible for a seat. There were tears, there was anger, there were riots, but in the end, things quietened down. It was easier to live with a little hope than none, and there were always the underground shelters.
To their credit, most of the people around me just got on with their jobs. Kids went to school, bakers baked, the police policed. I carried on working as a movements clerk at the Kisumu elevator shipping terminal, and hoped for the best as the months and years went by. Container after container travelled up the cable to the Synchronous Earth Orbit Satellite and then we rail-launched them off on the slow trajectory to Mars. We sent de-activated mechanoid workers and artificial people, stacked and packed like sardines. We sent thousands of universal manufacturing machines and vast quantities of feedstocks. Money was no object, anything left behind would be destroyed on ‘Collision Day.’ If we could just get things into Mars equatorial orbit, we’d worry about getting them down to Pavonis later. There was no need to send humans yet, not until the pioneers had built the first domed habitat for them.
Ragnarok became visible in the night sky about a year before its arrival, twinkling as it rotated in reflected sunlight, slowly growing larger. The Government announced that, for the sake of efficiency, men and women would be shipped to Mars separately. At first, there was a lot of protest about families being split up, but the politicians were persuasive, we were short of time and hundreds of thousands of people had to go.
An interim government had been convened in MarsDomeOne at Pavonis Base. The last carriage of women had set off up the cable when the President came on the screens to explain the arrangements for the male lottery winners. She sat, looking directly into the camera, grey and groomed, not a hair out of place. She leaned forward slightly and her expression hardened.
‘There are no male lottery winners, your sex is redundant. We don’t need you anymore,’ she said.
She explained that the mechanoids and artificals would build the new Martian city domes and women would populate them. The women didn’t need our help, all they needed were a few test tubes of sperm. As the babies were born there would be men on Mars, but what sort of men? Men who’d been brought up in a matriarchy, men educated by women. Would they have equal rights? Would the women even want them? Already, many preferred to cohabit with ‘male’ artificals. It struck me as ironic, that men were supposed to come from Mars but women had stolen it.
So many unanswered questions, and here it is at last, Collision Day. I’ve refused the tablets. I sit here, by myself, on a high point in the Ngong Hills, and wait. It won’t be long now. My timer beeps, I raise a glass of single malt, there’s a bright flash in the East and……….
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